Readers' Submissions

Delightful Bangkok – Small Notes



1) Greedy Taxi From Airport

Nok Air takes me back from Phitsanulok to Bangkok. Around 9 a.m., there is a long line of passengers at the taxi booth in the domestic terminal – but no taxis queue up at the booth to ferry home passengers with the usual 50 baht surcharge. Instead, five taxis wait 20 meters away. I talk to one driver, and he wants big notes: "Sukhumvit, 500 baht", he says. He wouldn't use the meter; with meter, it should be around 300 baht including highway tolls. The other drivers want the same money. Now most taxi drivers I had in Bangkok were very decent, hard working guys from Isaan; but the cabmen here all have mafia faces. I decide even if they do turn on the meter, I will not use them.

I wait for 15 minutes. Many other passengers in my line give up; after some waiting in vain, they enter the flat rate cabs without any negotiating, going downtown for a rip-off price. Maybe they have business appointments. I wonder how long I will remain waiting in the queue.

Suddenly, three taxis arrive straight at the taxi booth, then three more. I get a slip and a metered car that finally costs a total of 280 baht all the way to Sukhumvit soi 20.

2) Greedy Taxi In Town

I walk down soi Ekamai (soi 63) and try to find Ban Kebtawan, a neighborhood pub with live pleur-cheewit music. Around 10 p.m., I had wanted to take a motorcycle taxi from the Ekamai skytrain station, but there had been none. Not one free cab zooms along, and the pub doesn't materialize. I am not even sure if the pub is not in a sub-soi. I might be lost.

A taxi appears, oh, red light in the front screen, it's available! I wave. "Ban Kebtawan pub, you know?" I ask the driver in broken Thai. He claims to know the place. He starts to drive very slowly. Just 50 meters later, we pass a very small pub with a Thai sign only. "Ban Kebtawan", the driver deciphers.

"Ah, 50 meters, haha", I say in Thai, indicating that this was an easy job for him. The meter still shows the flagfall rate of 35 baht. I have no small notes, so I give him 50 baht and ask for 10 baht change; this means, he even gets a small five baht tip on this super short trip.

My driver presses the 50-baht-note to his heart: "Ten baht no have. You give 50 baht, ok????"

Now I demand 15 baht change.

3) Book Out Bangkok

For pothole research in Bangkok, I need the book (not the magazine) "Time Out Bangkok".

I call Asia Book's head store on Sukhumvit: "Do you have the guide book 'Time Out Bangkok'?" – "Juss' momeen', sir… I check computeeeh… Sorry, out of stock, we don't have it."

I call Asia Books in the Landmark Hotel: "Do you have the guide book 'Time Out Bangkok'?" – "Juss' momeen', sir… I check computeeeh… Sorry, we only have it in our branch at Seacon Square." – That is very far away. – "We can bring the book to Sukhumvit, it will take some days." – That is too late.

I call DK Books on Siam: "Do you have the guide book 'Time Out Bangkok'?" – "Can you spell please?" – I spell. – "Juss' momeen', sir… I check computeeeh… YES, we have: 'Thai Airways Timetable', it's available!"

Now I am willing to travel all the way to Asia Books at Seacon Square to get the book. To play it safe, I call Asia Books at Seacon Square: "Do you have the guide book 'Time Out Bangkok'?" – "Juss' momeen', sir… I check computeeeh… Sorry, out of stock, we don't have it." – "But Asia Books on Sukhumvit told me today the book is available on Seacon Square." – "Sorry sir, I checked everything already, we don't have the book anywhere."

The volume might well linger somewhere at DK Books or at Asia Books on Seacon Square – but you can't find out by telephone.

4) Skytrain Entertainment

Standing squeezed like tuna fish in the skytrain; around me lots of male westerners. I can either see their face – OR their legs.

To entertain me on the way to Victory Monument, I guess: A face like this, will he wear short or long trousers; oh, he looks like shorts. Then I look down, along a hairy white leg – I am mostly right. You can guess the trousers from the face.

I refine the quiz: With a face like this, will he wear flip flops, sandals, sneakers or leather shoes? After some practicing, I am mostly right.

5) Clean And Good

I walk down Silom road. I have a small receipt in my hand and don't know where to discard it. Finally relief: On one corner, I see a black plastic sack full of trash – I drop my tiny piece of paper.

"Good, velly good!!!" Only now I realize that a policeman had been watching me all the time, waiting to see where I get rid of the little paper. And now he really smiles and praises me for flipping the receipt into the plastic sack: "Yes, good!!!"

One hour later, I walk over a pedestrian's bridge near Sukhumvit soi 11. There a sturdy middle-aged farang man talks nervously to a policeman. "But there is litter everywhere", moans the farang. – "No, you go with me", barks the cop. – With his words, the farang admits littering. And while Sukhumvit road looks drab, there is not litter everywhere. – The farang breathes deeply. I don't pity him.

6) Just Another Bangkok Girl's Story

1.30 a.m. Nana Plaza litters hundreds of working girls onto soi 4; they line up to catch one last horny customer tonight. To observe the unique show, I climb up the empty platform of one outdoor corner bar. There is one girl already standing. I hope she leaves me alone.

For 20 minutes, I watch Thai girls and western boys mingle, haggle, cruise, laugh, check, depart, even come back. Tall katoeys float up and down above the rest, while soi dogs, kids and disabled beggars scratch the ground floor. Two farangs stumble out torn and blood covered.

The girl next to me had said no word. I risk an eye contact. She does not look as mean as many of the hookers down on the asphalt. "You don't need farang," I ask in Thai? – She looks at me with big, brown, beautiful eyes; her face is innocent like a school girl. Only now I realize she has long hair down to her waist. – "No, I am not a hooker", she answers in very clear English.

Pom says, she is looking for a new partner. She is 25, and for four years she had a boyfriend from the Netherlands who stayed with her in a gorgeous Bangkok serviced apartment, about 40 stories above ground. He was 50, she was 21, when they met. She must have been a dream girl then, oh, she is a dream girl now. Every once in a while he worked for a few weeks in Korea, while she kept their Bangkok love nest warm; he'd come back and hold her tight lovingly. They talked about marriage, and a decent education for her.

"You think, soi 4 is a good place to find a boyfriend", I ask her? – She answers that she found her Dutch boyfriend in the Nana Hotel disco on soi 4, so she comes back here. "He has a very good heart, you know." – "So why did you stop," I ask? – It went like that: After four years of intense relationship, she had an intuition. She checked into his e-mail and into his hand phone messages; she learnt that her future husband was already married to a Korean wife. She left without talking.

Now Pom works in Central Department Store for 6000 baht per month. She dreams to have her own beauty saloon one day, but can not at all afford the school. Soi 4 slowly gets quiet and empty, and I hand her a tissue, because Pom is softly crying now.

Just another Bangkok Girl's Story.

7) Friendly Taxi In Town

Most Bangkok taxi drivers are decent, hard working guys from Isaan. Around 11 p.m., I ask them to take me to Tawan Daeng, the huge pub for live Isaan look thung music (among other styles); the drivers are always happy that a farang likes their local music. They even chip in luuk thung cassettes and grin all over.

When I replay my three words of Isaan-Lao language, these cabmen can't believe it and tell me all about their homes and wives and kids up in Buriram or Sakhon Nakhon. And when the fare amounts to 79 baht, they refuse to take more than 70 baht.

Stickman's thoughts:

Nice observations.